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Sports

MVP wants Rio stint for Gilas: Let’s work hard

Olmin Leyba - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – The road to the Rio Olympics may be rough with powerhouse teams like France, Canada and New Zealand standing on the way but Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Manny V. Pangilinan keeps his faith on Gilas Pilipinas.

“Of course (the expectation is), no less than the opportunity to participate in Rio. I’d like to see Filipino players, Filipino athletes belong to the Olympic movement again, not only in basketball but in other sports,” Pangilinan said Saturday night.

Gilas hopes to form the best possible team, get the best possible preparations and draw a lot of energy from Filipino fans as they vie in the Fiba Olympic Qualifying Tournament on July 5-10 on home soil.

“We got the most of the tough teams in our group and coach Tab (Baldwin) will have his hands full,” Pangilinan said.

Phl 5 will kick off its bid in Group B of the qualifiers against world No. 5 France on July 5 then tackle the 21st-ranked New Zealand the next day, hoping to buck the odds and advance to the semis, possibly against Group A teams Canada or Turkey. Only the champion of the tourney will catch the last bus to Rio.

Asked what he feels about Gilas facing France then New Zealand, Pangilinan said: “Worried. It’s fine to get worried but the best antidote to that is to prepare well. I think that’s what coach Tab (Baldwin) has been saying as well. Let’s choose the best players available for the July event, prepare well and prepare hard for that.”

He urged the passionate Pinoy fans to go all out as well and act as the “Sixth Man” of Gilas as it embarks on this tough mission.

“We need Filipino fans to come out there fully and support the team. I think it will be a big boost to the team’s effort,” he said.

Pangilinan is set to retire as SBP president in May but reaffirmed his continued support to the sport.

“I told the board it’s time for change and we need a younger, more energetic president. But we will be behind SBP, to continue to support,” he said as he received the “Sportsmen Who Make it Happen” award from Spin.ph.

The sports patron and exec joined the roster of honorees led by “Sportsman of the Year” Calvin Abueva of Alaska and Gilas who basked in glory in the award ceremonies co-presented by PLDT Home Ultera.

ACIRC BALDWIN CALVIN ABUEVA OF ALASKA AND GILAS CANADA AND NEW ZEALAND FIBA OLYMPIC QUALIFYING TOURNAMENT GILAS PILIPINAS GROUP A GROUP B HOME ULTERA NEW ZEALAND PANGILINAN
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